About two miles to the east of Repton the level meadow land of the Trent valley suddenly rises and forms a perpendicular bank, composed of conglomerate rock, with bands of sandstone… Here, ages ago, an Anchorite is supposed to have scooped out of the rock an oratory and a dwelling. Who made it and when are questions that can never be answered, the only reference to it is found in the Repton Church Register under the year 1658 "Ye foole at Anchor Church bur Aprill 19". In later days it became the favourite retreat of Sir Robert Burdett, who had it fitted up so that he and his friends could dine within its cool, and romantic cells. It has been enlarged at various times, at present  it consists of a series of four cells. Admittance is gained through an arched door-way, the first cell has been divided into two by a brick wall, plastered over, a small one on the right hand (10ft 6in by 6ft 6in) with a small window , and a larger one (13ft by 12ft 6in) with a window in front, and two semicircular recesses tat the back; between this and the next cell two archways have been made through the rock, with a pillar between them, also of rock, this cell is 17ft 6in by 13ft 6in, and also has two similar recesses; through another arch the last cell is reached (18ft by 17ft), this has three recesses and two windows. The ground plan is semi-circular so that the last cell projects some distance out and affords most extensive views of the valley of the Trent… (1)
The cave-pierced rock, near Repton called Anchor Church consists of four chambers in a semi-circle. Probably the original hermitage - if such it was - consisted of "church" and cell. It has been suggested that it was the abode of St. Hardulph who is mentioned in an early printed book. (2)
Listed, Grade II. The origins and date of the man-made caves with pointed windows are unknown but in their present form may be eighteenth century. (3).
An elaborate artificial cave system centred to SK 33902722. The whole consists of three chambers with 6 cells and extends for 13.0m in a low sandstone face approx. 4.5m. Above the present level of the river, the cave has a maximum depth of 4.0m into the rock face. (4)
Listing amended: Anchor Church. Natural cave, enlarged and formed into a folly. Late 18th cent. Grade II. (5)
A number of legends and stories are associated with Anchor Church near Repton, often combined with supposed tunnels leading to the cave. However there is very little in the way of documentary evidence regarding the origins of this hermitage. One story survives as a fragment of an early printed book survives which describes St Hardulph (a ?7th century? saint) who lived in a cell in a cliff a small way from the Trent and his intention to take a book to St Modwen, a virgin who lived as a hermit further up the Trent at Andressey near Burton-on-Trent. The earliest firm evidence is in the Repton Parish Register of 1658 which records "Ye foole at Anchor Church bur. April 19", indicating that the site was providing shelter for someone in the mid-17th century. The term 'foole' could refer to anyone from a simpleton to an eccentric solitary. In the 18th century, with the popularity of romantic landscapes, the hermitage was altered and enlarged by Sir Robert Burdett to provide an intriguing dining area for his guests - in 1745 Thomas Smith of Derby painted the scene of the Burdetts and friends amusing themselves in front of the cave. (6)
A survey conducted sometime before June 2021 indicated that some of the architectural forms date back to the Saxon period, reinforcing the tradition that the rock cut dwelling served as the home of the exiled King Eardwulf of Northumbia (later St Hardulph) in the early 9th century. (7) (8)